The Bar Epiphany

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I have a recurring epiphany that pounces on me at bars sometimes:  I’m so unbelievably thankful to have found my girlfriend when and where I did.  When I’m at a bar and she isn’t around, I can’t help but notice people looking to make some boozy love connections and realize how hopelessly inept I would be at finding romance in such a way. 

The first time these thoughts and the ensuing gratitude assaulted me, I was extremely drunk before even stepping foot in the bar.  As the friends I came with went and danced, I thought to myself, “Sweet Jesus I hate dancing and if dancing were my only chance at meeting the girl of my dreams, I would certainly die alone.”  I immediately drunk texted my girlfriend to let her know how lucky I was to have her.  

The epiphany struck again last night when I went out for drinks with a few co-workers.  A fairly nice girl was telling me about her hobby of collecting shoes (Air Jordans in particular) and showing me pictures of the pair that she has coming in the mail.  

I wasn’t bored out of my mind, but there was no connection there.  Sometimes I talk to people and feel like I have absolutely zero in common with them.  I don’t hold it against that person and I’m certainly not rude to them.  

I like hearing about other people’s lives as they would tell it.  Mostly because I think that there always exists an abundance of sub-plots, half-truths, and ulterior motives between the lines; but  I also enjoy comparing and contrasting my perception of the person with the perception that they try to project with their stories.  There are three identities at play:  Who I think they are, Who they tell me they are, and Who they really think they are.  I tumbled down the rabbit hole pondering these things as I listened to her life story prior to moving to Florida.  Drinking a Fat Tire, struggling to listen over the din of a mediocre house band, and contemplating some of the complexities of human nature combine for multi-tasking far beyond my capabilities.  I could never have met the love of my life at a bar, and I would have become a miserable, cynical human being had I ever tried. 

Relationship Champion

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After mentioning to a new co-worker that my girlfriend and I have been together for 6 years, I was immediately knighted relationship champion.  6 years is just about my entire adult life (see Brantleyism #001 for my thoughts on adulthood being an 18+ condition).

It’s one of those accomplishments that make people assume that you actually know what you’re doing.  When people ask me how we’ve made it so far, I give one big goofy shrug and a Scooby-Dooesque “Idunno!”

That’s too broad of a question.  When it gets more specific, it gets more awkward too.  “You’ve been together that long and you’ve never cheated?  She’s never cheated?  You never even thought about it?”  The tone that people use with these questions make it sound like there’s something wrong with the answer, “no.”  It comes out like:  “You mean you’ve never even considered potty training?”  “You’re telling me that neither of you take showers ever?”  

It really makes me think, though.  Not about cheating, but about the absolute absence of any interest in that.  There’s no place I’d rather be than with my girlfriend.  Why would cheating ever even cross my mind?

Being perceived as some sort of relationship Saskwatch sighting is nothing compared to the weirdness of situations when I’m treated like a sage.  Here’s something that most of my readers would probably guess about me:  I have absolutely no idea how to give relationship advice.

The problem is that my girlfriend is perfect.  Being in love with her is as easy as breathing.  Actually with the amount of pollen in Florida this time of year, being in love with her is easier than breathing.

She makes me want to be my best self, and she knows exactly how to tell me when I’m not living up to the person I want to be (and in a way that cuts through my impenetrable stubbornness).  It’s hard to explain, but it’s everything I’ve ever needed.

We never run out of things to talk about because we share interest in some “evergreen topics” like movies, politics, and nature.  There’s a whole big interesting world out there and neither of us can get enough of it.

Best of all, however, is our love of stories and conversations when we discuss fiction as if it’s real.  Recently, we wondered where J.K. Rowling’s Wizards and Witches were during World War 2.  Rick Riordan mentioned the role of his demi-gods in the major wars of history.  There’s no way Jo hasn’t considered these things, she just hasn’t told us her answer.  (Seriously though:  Is the privacy of a small portion of the population more important than the lives of the millions of Jews that were being rounded up and slaughtered in concentration camps during World War 2?  Wouldn’t a societal decision by the Wizarding community to do nothing to stop the Holocaust color the very psychology of their culture?).

Also part of that conversation is the notion the epic veracity of the old saying “knowledge is power” in the Wizarding World.  Why would anyone study a minute less than Hermione if it meant being able to do incredible things?  Of course, my girlfriend cited mentions of inherent talent and power in certain wizards that determines the range of their potential for magic.

Sorry.  What was I blogging about again?

In short, our relationship is great because we work together.  We are similar in all of the right ways, but dissimilar enough to prevent ourselves from becoming one with the couch in a mutual comfort zone.  We strengthen each other, nurture each other, challenge each other.

She’s perfect, so I’ve got it easy.  She’s the one with the hard part.  I’m very, very far from perfect!

Regardless, our relationship certainly impressed this co-worker.  She wanted to know how after 6 years we still aren’t bored with each other; how we didn’t “go through a rough patch” after so much time together.  It all led to that inevitable moment when I’m placed on a relationship pedestal, and find myself speechless, dizzy and disoriented from the heights.

Luckily, I was saved in this particular situation.  Conversations like these at work are frequently interrupted and rarely carried through to their conclusion.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it though.  Every time I’ve ever been asked for relationship advice I feel like a deer in the headlights.  I don’t know what to tell people who are in trouble with their boyfriend or girlfriend.  If you don’t want to be with someone, don’t be with them.  Life is too short to spend with the wrong person.  As for me, there hasn’t been a single second since I first kissed my girlfriend on August 26th, 2008 that I haven’t wanted to be with her.  For all of my endless imagination, I can’t even begin to understand what it would be like to consider giving up on what we have.

Like I said, the conversation wasn’t ever finished, but I did come up with a few tips on how to be relationship champions:

  1. Don’t ever take each other for granted.  My girlfriend and I have something that people search their entire lives for and some never find.  Remembering that puts everything else into perspective.  There isn’t a single argument or disagreement that we could possibly have that would be worth throwing it all away.  When someone loves you, they will put up with you at your worst.  When you love them back, you know that they deserve nothing short of your very best.
  2. Don’t go to bed angry.  Fighting sucks, but it’s as temporary as you make it.  It’s better to be happy than right, especially because being right counts for so little in most arguments.  When it comes to relationships:  fixing things, apologizing, making up for your mistakes should be your top priority in life.  Arguments are no fun, but they happen.  Bury the hatchet as soon as you can and get back to loving each other.
  3. Finally, the most lame advice I can give people is this:  Have a little bit more money than you need. It’s not romantic at all, I know, but I can’t tell you how many fewer disagreements my girlfriend and I have now that we can pay our bills and go out for dinner and drinks every once in a while.  Being broke is an all-consuming stress that can poison your health, your mind, and your relationship.  It warps your sense of reality and your priorities, which is extremely dangerous when it comes to the most important people in your life.

It’s not much wisdom to impart and it’s probably not all that impressive, but that’s my answer.  That’s how we’ve made it so far, through so much and are still happy with each other.

Next time I suddenly find myself on the relationship pedestal and am completely flabbergasted, I won’t even try to speak.  I’ll just pull up this post, show it to the supplicant and scram before they can ask anymore broad, confusing questions!

The Day that I Met the Love of my Life

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I remember the exact day that I met the love of my life and it isn’t for the reasons that you would expect.

I don’t have a position on whether or not love at first sight exists.  I might have at one point, but that was back when I thought I knew a lot about love (which conversely was when I knew the least about it!).

If you’ve read some of my stories of 18/19 year old Brantley fumbling his way into disasters by believing that life is just like they say in the movies, you probably expect me to address the realism of the “Meet Cute” of romantic comedies.  For those who make better use of their time, in chick flicks the protagonists always meet through some adorable, candid, pure and magical circumstances.  The message is that their love has been adorned by destiny and that regardless of the challenges they will soon face, they will prevail because they are meant to be.  They’re soul mates.

Well here is my meet un-cute:

A few weeks into the second semester of college, I was indulging one of my more devastating vices.  I obsess over movie trailers.  As the type who always falls for the ones that will hurt me the most, I specifically obsess over incredibly constructed trailers for movies destined to disappoint.  Case in point:  I started looking forward to Spiderman 3 a full six months ahead of its theatrical release.  The teaser and eventually the trailer were the soundtrack of my senior year of high school as I watched it over and over again.  Those who have seen the film can very easily imagine my devastation at the midnight premier of that crap fest.  It was like looking forward to a visit from Santa for 365 days a year and then having him tumble down the chimney drunk and crass as he accidentally sets your Christmas tree on fire while making lewd gestures at your mother.

If the people that cut together movie trailers actually made the entire movie, we would be living in the new golden age of Hollywood.

Being the Lost fan that I was, the teaser for Cloverfield seduced the hell out of me (J.J. Abrams is the common thread between the two).  I watched it over and over again, watched video responses on YouTube (by rule, a complete waste of time), and studied the lore of Cthulu just in case the movie made reference to the dark one.

Of course I was going to that midnight premier.  I had reserved my tickets before I even started looking for some company.  I invited Mallory and Stephanie, roommates on my floor that I knew from the dorm area council.  Stephanie wasn’t going to go.  Mallory did want to go, but thought that they were the only ones invited and that it would look like a date.  Little did she know, I also invited Maggie and her roommate and they were definitely in.  As you can tell, I hadn’t yet made friends with the guys on my floor, or any guys anywhere for that matter.

Mallory contacted the girl who would change my life forever.  Her sales pitch, “I need you to go to this movie with me because otherwise it will just be me and this awkward guy and I don’t want him to think it’s a date.”  The universe took my awkward lemons and made some strange lemonade.  My now-girlfriend and her roommate loyally agreed to help her out by joining our burgeoning Cloverfield Fellowship.

Five girls accompanied me to that horrible, found footage gimmick, shaky camera, plotless, likable protagonist-less waste of an hour and a half of my life.  I barely remember my girlfriend even being there, except for the fact that she was on crutches because she hurt her ankle on the rock-climbing wall.

The found footage gimmick is just an elaborate excuse for making a cheap, plotless, more-often-than-not mediocre film.

I wouldn’t see much of her or her roommate again for a while, during which time I came out of my shell, started drinking too much, and found it in me to be kinda a decent guy.  Even then, we were hanging out with a bizarre menagerie of friends destined for implosion.  Also, we were talking to other people.  Like several other people.  But that’s a subplot to be played out over the course of other chapters.

According to my girlfriend, she and her roommate were sugared up and insane that night and I came across as an anti-social jerk.

This was our “meet-cute.”

Around 11 PM on January 17, 2008.

Not every turning point in life is marked by some ridiculous feeling of being one with the universe.  Some come and go unheralded like any other mundane moment.

I know it’s early, but Happy Valentine’s Day!  Did you and your significant other have a memorable meeting?  Or was it profoundly forgettable?

P.S.  We’ve been together 5 years now, and they have been the best years that I could have ever asked for.  I have no idea how I survived so long without her!